“The social media spat around H&M and the ‘monkey boy hoodie’ is touch ironic, given that the company at the centre of this storm is one of the most progressive in the casting of black models in the the retail industry in the UK and internationally. If there was a league table of ethical fashion retailers H&M would be in the top 10. The picture below is from their 2014 autumn campaign taken by me in Barcelona. I took the picture. All of the models in the campaign were black, not just the one shown. Is this issue about racism or people turning an innocent image into something more political.” says Kunle Olulode
The question posed by Kunle is the same one that has been asked over and over again in recent years.
H&M’s decision to photograph a 5 year old black boy in a “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie was easy meat for the deconstructionists who do nothing but see racism everywhere.
A range of opinions are to be expected, as demonstrated by callers into the Dotun Adebayo Radio London show, yet a single photograph doesn’t merit H&M stores being trashed in South Africa or the family of the young being forced to move temporarily.
The reaction of his parents was balanced stating that they didn’t see it as racist but equally understanding that some might. Yet H&M issued an obligatory apology for causing offence and withdrew the product. This week they have hired a Diversity Officer in a bid to assuage the permanently triggered.
One has to ask would the slogan have passed muster had it been worn by a child of a different race. I doubt it.
As Taleb explains the most intolerant wins thus giving a veto to a small minority of individuals. In this case, it’s not just the kind of slogan a black boy can wear but any child can wear.
Is this the end goal of the social justice warriors? A world sanitised of anything that could be construed as racist by anyone?
An unrealistic utopian goal at best but an ill thought out one. It holds all black children and people hostage to anything racists have ever said about or to them. They must be enslaved by the words of the very people who have oppressed them in the past and no phrase, no matter how innocently used, holds sway over their thoughts and feelings in perpetuity.
Having taught hundreds of young children over the years, it seems sad that this young boy is now associated with a race row.
Without adult concerns of racism in play – all children who know anything about monkeys and anything about humans know full well we humans are the cheekiest of all monkeys and well who wouldn’t want to be the coolest of them all?
Author: Tarjinder Wilkinson